Bukowski on Women

Man, Mouse or Misogynist

On Women

Much as I enjoy Bukowski's writing, his style, his verve, his sheer damn it all to hell honesty, I dislike the showy book Women, Henry Miller made a far greater fist of it, (no pun insinuated).

Bukowski preens in grand peacock style, displaying his mistrust of the fairer sex. The great rebel had an allergy of sorts, to vagina, and often mistook sexploitation for freedom. Not quite the noble urban savage I had imagined, a fine and austere writer, truly compassionate in many ways, but a touch of Schadenfreude when it came to the opposite sex! Bukowski - the predator - revels (sympathetically of course) in the misfortunes of his prey.

The obsessive neatness of his prose now begins to worry me, where before I was all in favour. Is this sparse syntax a sock in the eye of the bourgeoisie, or is it just primness after all? Bukowski famously hated literary verbiage, he despised adjectives. He liked his sentences, neat, clipped, punchy, devoid of ornament. Was this a manly stride through the white picket fence of so-called, 'honesty' or was it just plain OCD?

Shame about this retarded book. Then again - you could argue - Bukowski's great gift was his willingness to lay bare his flawed and weatherbeaten humanity. ( Orange Alice on a literary roll!)

And the verdict? Well, there's the usual irresistible lavishness, some dazzling displays, but the theme sucks. Usual stuff, men hating women, tedious portrayal of Chinaski (Bukowski of course) whose sexploits are as thrilling as watching the antics of a flasher at a bus shelter. Your instinct is to glance the other way, politely.

Bukowski shows (along with his genitals), his utter boredom with life, with women, and most of all with himself. A pessimistic view of relationships, and a strong streak of Germanic puritanism.

I'm still an admirer, nevertheless. RIP Buk.

Comments 5 comments

Tony 6 years ago

Yes, we agree that 'Women' is not a very good book. What books from Charles Bukowski would you recommend? Either poetry or fiction, what is the best Bukowski I could read?


Alice Frances profile image

Alice Frances 6 years ago from London Author

I wouldn't recommend any in particular, my policy, when I find a writer interesting is to read anything and discover what I like. I enjoyed Factotum, Post Office, Tales of Ordinary Madness, and some of his poetry. I'm haven't immersed myself in his canon like some, but I intend adding Ham on Rye and The Captain is Out to Lunch to the list, but I will read him more critically than before, now that I'm aware of his narrow prejudices.


patrick fealey profile image

patrick fealey 6 years ago from California

great review. i've long felt that bukowski suffers from an idealized self image and it's evident in his simplistic and antagonistic take on women. i have read most of his work and found "women" boring. he can't get over himself, a flaw which permeates most of his later writings. i also liked "tales of ordinary madness" and his "burning in water, drowning in flame" poems are genius. i have been published in the same magazines as bukowski on both coasts and find him to be a great writer, but very limited in style and scope. bukowski writes like he's looking in the mirror, without seeing the man who is looking in the mirror. thanks for the great analysis of a writer who is great, but not as great as his worshippers think.


Dan 6 years ago

emotional retardation? idealize the world and let me know how that works out for you.

No, patrick, it was not a great review it was a well written review.

Alice you say Buk has a commonplace attitude... I laugh though, knowing those who are wrapped in caution are far more commonplace. Patrick mentions he has "been published in the same magazines..." "...on both coasts" a line that would have got him punched by Buk. It is a rare thing to laugh at the golden rule, the fearful have no heart for it.

Patrick, Bukowski is a man, getting over himself isn't his job. Seizing life by the horns sounds a bit closer to the mark even if it's in the worst of conditions.


Alice Frances profile image

Alice Frances 5 years ago from London Author

Thanks for your comment Patrick .. and yours Dan .. you know how life is you read something one day and it jars, it's okay a week later. Bukowski just got me down with that book I guess. I do think his delusions are as you say Patrick, and I love the image of 'a man looking in the mirror without seeing the man who is looking in the mirror' spooky! I read 'Portnoy's Complaint' recently; same substance, fear and loathing of the opposite sex, yet somehow more honest, more fun, more forgivable, I wonder why

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